Tell us about the style and medium of your art.
My work is a celebration of the beauty and grace that I see in all women of color. My intent is for the viewer to slow down, take their time, and find their connection to the portraits before them.
I am drawn to images of the female form; it is the silhouette of black women that are of particular interest to me. I see the poise and energy women inhabit in the world, which is so often commodified in popular media. In response to this, I offer counter symbols of black women as figures personifying grace and strength. In my work, I explore the use of silhouettes by recontextualizing images from popular culture to use as entry points for deeper conversations on gender, race, and the perceptions of beauty.
Using photographs as my source image, my process begins by reducing the subjects to their essential elements, eliminating everything until they are stripped to raw imagery of line to expose their most compelling details. Next I will cut-out the silhouette and paint her in my signature high enamel blue. Final steps involve collaging the silhouette with pattern papers, encaustic prints or inked paper and pour resin to seal the composition. My preference is to work on birch panel; it supports my resin pours best and 2 -3 times a year I will create a large scale paper cut piece (see "There She Stands, Regal with her Braids and Beads").
In the current body of work, I am focusing on the themes of identity, migration, and displacement in the human narrative.
How did you begin creating art?
I started painting in the early 2000's. Initially my goal was to create a single painting of a sunrise to go over the staircase in my house. I saw it so clearly in my head and was taught by my parents that I could do anything in life as long as I focused and applied dedication. So I went to the art store, purchased a lot of art supplies, one 60" canvas and set-up a studio in my kitchen. That painting took me 2 years to complete thanks to the help of artist friends and several foundational art classes on acrylic and color theory. At the end of the process, I was hooked. Painting was in my blood and I haven't stopped creating since.
Tell us about a piece of art that you are most proud of and why?
My new babies are always my proudest works. With each new series, I am applying a new element or skill that I have learned and usually a new series is in response to a shift that is going on in my world.
I've been working on a commission for the AKA alumni chapter at GA Tech. For the background, I wanted to convey a sense of timelessness and include elements that represent these dynamic women that selected me to represent them. I started experimenting with adding India inks to my resin pours and began to see that I was headed in the right direction. One night I cut out a new silhouette from one of the semi-cured pours and she turned out beautifully. I noticed immediately that the piece conveyed how I am feeling emotionally right now during our current turbulent times AND resolved how to move forward the background for the commission pieces.
The piece is titled "There is an Ocean inside of me". It centers me. It helps me to find a momentary measure of calm with all of these raw emotions that are right below the surface. I'm a pretty laid back person but lately, on a daily basis, I oscillate between the heartbreak and grieving for the black lives loss due to police violence and the lack of justice; to pride for those on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter protest; to anger from any news coming out of the White House; to helplessness as the COVID-19 cases spike in this country ... it's a lot to bring into the studio. For me to create, I have to be able to tap into my calm center and this piece does just that.
What inspires your creativity to create art?
I am a figurative artist and the female form is what I connect to the most. My wall is filled with photographs of my friends, images from magazines, and social media that have captured my attention. The other day I drove by this sista on a bike with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers peeking out of her backpack. That image is seared in my mind and it is the next painting up when I have finished my commission projects. Right now it is just a pencil sketch taped to my wall, patiently waiting for me to focus on her.
What advice would you give someone who seeks to work as an artist?
Just do it! You become an artist by creating the work. There are so many resources available to get started from books, social media feeds to YouTube videos. I follow my favorite artists on IG, I buy their exhibition catalogs, my bookshelf is filled with artist books, and the most best thing is when I go to a show to see their work in person. I recommend developing your artist community with artists you have access to, support their exhibitions, visit their studios, ask questions, and listen. Take a class if you are not achieving the results you want. When I get stuck on a piece I'm working on, I ask one of my artist friends for recommendations on what to try next. Most important, Find a mentor and absorb the things that he or she shares with you. Living artists are your greatest resource. I learn from other artists and then I go into my studio and experiment.
How did you select ZuCot Gallery to represent your art?
I have been a huge supporter of ZuCot Gallery for years; frequently attending their exhibitions and artists salons. I partnered with them when I was an arts administrator. I was invited to be a part of a group exhibition 2 years ago, it was a very successful show, and they have been representing my work since then.
What can the world expect to see next from your creations?
Large scale works and public installations! I have scaled up some of the newer work to 6 - 8 feet and I am working on bringing the work off the wall for installations that hang from the ceiling. I will continue to add to the series "Sumaya" and "Walk Alone" and I have started planning my next large scale papercut.
Tracy Murrell is an Atlanta-based visual artist. Murrell has shown in numerous group, solo, and juried exhibitions and her work has been featured in Create! Magazine, ArtVoices Magazine, Studio Visit Magazine Issue 29, 35, 38, 41 and New American Paintings Issue 142. Her painting “Walk Alone | We Will Follow” was selected for the cover of Witnessing Girlhood Toward An Intersectional Tradition of Life Writing by Fordham University Press. She has been awarded artist residencies at The Hambidge Center for the Arts in Rabun Gap, Georgia, Atlanta Printmakers Studio in Atlanta, Georgia, and Green Olive Arts in Tetouan, Morocco.
Murrell has been commissioned by the Eta Mu Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority for new work for the new re-imagined Georgia Tech University library. Her first solo museum exhibition Mache Nan Soulye ou (Walking in Your Shoes) ... Exploring Haitian Migration opens at Hammonds House Museum in 2021. The exhibition explores contemporary Haitian migration and produces new artistic works with the intention of offering a counter-narrative to the immigration story and bringing to light the universality of migration as a shared experience.
Murrell’s work is included in various private and municipal collections and has shown at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.